An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Science and Chemistry

REPORT

 

 

Coláiste Daibhéid

South Terrace, Cork

Roll number: 71124S

 

 

Date of inspection: 11 December 2006

Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School Response to the Report

 

Report

on

the Quality of Learning and Teaching in (subject name)

 

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Daibhéid. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of teaching and learning in Science and Chemistry and makes recommendations for the further development of the teaching of these subjects in the school. The evaluation was conducted over two days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and had discussions with the teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and subject teachers.  The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Science is in a strong position in Coláiste Daibhéid. Junior Certificate Science is a core subject and is studied by all Transition Year (TY) students. The provision of Science in TY is good practice as it informs students’ choices when selecting their senior-cycle subjects, and provides the opportunity to enhance the science process skills of the students. Biology, Physics and Chemistry are offered at senior cycle. The uptake of Chemistry and Biology for Leaving Certificate is good. Currently there is no fifth-year physics class. However, management is commended on its co-operation with a neighbouring school, in order to enable one fifth-year student to study Physics. Management and teachers should continue to encourage students in their study of the sciences for Leaving Certificate.

 

When selecting subjects for Leaving Certificate, students are initially offered an open choice. These choices are then used to create a “best-fit” model for senior cycle subjects. TY students have a weekly guidance lesson, and parents are invited to seek advice from the school when their son or daughter is choosing his or her subjects for Leaving Certificate. This is commended. To augment this support, consideration should be given to holding an annual information night, for parents of both third-year and TY students. Timetabling supports the delivery of the science curriculum, with the time allocation for the sciences in line with the class contact time recommended in the syllabuses, and all classes receiving an even spread of lessons over the week, thus facilitating the reinforcement and assimilation of new concepts. This is commendable. The inclusion of double lesson periods for all science and chemistry classes is wholly appropriate as it facilitates student performance of practical work, which is an intrinsic part of the science and chemistry syllabuses.

 

Science classes are of mixed ability. The good practice of teachers retaining their class groups throughout junior cycle and again for Leaving Certificate is noted, as it promotes continuity of learning. All students are encouraged to take the higher-level examination paper for Junior Certificate. Final decisions regarding levels are generally not made until the pre-examinations. This is commended.

 

Facilities at the school are inadequate for hands-on practical work with the class groups in junior cycle, the TY class group, and with the large biology classes in senior cycle. The only practical room has too few designated practical-work spaces, and these are tightly packed together at the back of the room. Despite these inadequate facilities, the teachers must be praised for the organisation of their practical lessons in a manner that facilitates all students in their mandatory practical activities. Adequate equipment has been purchased to ensure the effective delivery of the science syllabuses. The displays of posters and scientific models provide a visually stimulating learning environment in the science room. This is noteworthy. It is recommended that management investigate the possibility of obtaining a laboratory consistent with the laboratory- planning guidelines laid down by the Department of Education and Science

 

Management is commended on the financial support that is made available on a needs basis for the provision of necessary resources. Equipment is stored in the science room and there is a separate chemical store with appropriate ventilation. A good level of safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, safety blankets, safety glasses etc., is in evidence in the laboratory. Excellent work has been done to ensure that chemicals are stored according to Department of Education and Science guidelines and best safety practice. The work of the teachers in this regard is commended. The school has a health and safety statement, which was devised in 2003, and reviewed in 2006. While the science department was not consulted during this process, it is understood that the science teachers inserted appropriate safety information with regard to the science room into the statement. This is commended.

 

To support the teaching and learning of the sciences, the laboratory contains an overhead projector and teachers have access to a TV/VCR/DVD unit. Management has encouraged the use of information and communication technology (ICT) by providing a laptop computer and a data projector. Along with an ICT suite in the school, data logging equipment has been purchased for the teaching of sciences. Teachers are commended on the appropriate use of this equipment. It was stated during the course of the evaluation that a science website is currently being set up for students, which will be used as a learning tool. Management is to be praised for supporting the provision of these resources.

 

Management is commended on the commitment given to facilitate continuing professional development. All teachers have had the opportunity to attend in-career development in the sciences, provided by the relevant support services. It is noteworthy that teachers keep in touch with issues and discussions in science education through attending meetings such as the annual conference of the Association of Science Education in England. The commitment of teachers themselves is also illustrated by one teacher’s willingness to share his expertise by holding workshops for teachers under the auspices of the local branch of the Irish Science Teachers’ Association and the Physics Support Service. Whole-staff development workshops have also taken place. It is understood that funding for further study is made available upon application. This is laudable. Whole-staff development workshops have also taken place on topics such as dyslexia and school development planning.

 

Students participate in an array of co-curricular and extra-curricular science activities. Currently the school is involved in the ‘Discovering Sensors’ project, which is a Forfás initiative in collaboration with the Junior Certificate Science Support Service. Other activities include ecology fieldtrips and visits to relevant industries. Students also participate in science quizzes, Science Week activities, and this year entered the BT Young Scientist competition. Those involved are to be praised for their commitment to facilitating such a broad range of educational and stimulating activities.

 

 

Planning and preparation

 

In the context of a three-teacher department, a subject coordinator or formal departmental structure is not considered essential in the school. Structured subject meetings, in which decisions are minuted, occurred a number of times during the last year. These meetings have been used as a means of identifying and dealing with resource needs and formulating a collaborative approach to curricular implementation in junior cycle. This is very good practice. This common programme of work could be expanded over time to include timeframes, resources, teaching methodology and assessment. Ongoing informal communication, in addition to the continuation of the formal meetings should be considered in order to underpin and extend the good work that has been done.

 

At an individual level, teachers have compiled comprehensive folders of resources, some of which are electronic. These are relevant to the syllabuses and support the teaching and learning of the sciences effectively. Very good preparation and advance planning of the lessons was observed during the course of the visit. Teachers relied significantly on the blackboard, acetates and PowerPoint presentations. These worked well and were occasionally augmented with other materials, such as handouts, which had been prepared and ready for distribution. Teaching and learning were also enhanced, as chemicals and equipment were ready in advance for students’ hands-on practical activities and for teacher demonstrations. The work of the teachers in this regard is highly commended.

 

A written programme of work has been devised for TY. It is noteworthy that this programme is firmly linked to scientific issues in everyday life. This is very good practice, as the inclusion of topics such as radon gas, the Chernobyl disaster and astronomy broadens students’ knowledge and understanding, and helps develop their scientific literacy.

 

As previously intimated, a science website is in the process of being developed in Coláiste Daibhéid, where it is intended that notes and other learning resources will be placed, in order to provide extra support to students in their study of the sciences. This is highly commended.

 

 

Teaching and learning

 

Lessons were well structured, student centred and sequenced logically. Instruction by teachers was clear, competent and accurate. Overall, lessons proceeded at a smart pace, which resulted in a realistic amount of work being completed in the allocated time. The use of scientific language through the medium of Irish is well developed and students are obviously used to hearing and using Irish. There were also some very nice examples of linking the lesson content to the everyday life experiences of the students, thus making the subject tangible and relevant. Inclusion of personal details of the lives of scientists would generate further interest in the historical aspects of Science and Chemistry.

 

A range of teaching methodologies was used, including student practical work, teacher explanation and questioning. The blackboard, ICT and overhead projector were effectively used to reinforce significant points. Very good employment of ICT in providing visual stimuli enhanced student learning. Interactive pair and class discussion effectively developed lesson content. The employment of pair work as students recorded that main points of the topic from memory following class discussion is excellent practice, as it facilitates students’ ongoing engagement in the learning process.

 

Practical work was highly organised. Students worked in pairs, were confident and capable in setting up and completing the tasks in a safe manner. Their practical skills were well developed. As students performed practical activities the teachers constantly circled the room giving appropriate attention and support to individual needs. Students were observed to contribute confidently throughout the practical activities. This is commended. Where a plenary session was employed on completion of the practical activity, it effectively consolidated student learning.

 

Questioning was used effectively to gauge students’ levels of understanding, to probe their responses and to direct their attention towards more complex aspects of a topic. It was also competently used to draw on students’ previous knowledge of a topic and to aid the introduction of and subsequent broadening of that topic. In one instance, science that students had learned in primary school was successfully employed as an introduction to a new topic. This is commended. Students responded well to questions and did not hesitate to ask questions themselves.

 

Observation of and interaction with the students showed them in general to be articulate and indicated good understanding and knowledge of science. Attitudes to learning are positive as displayed by the level of interest and enthusiasm shown in the lessons. The teachers are to be praised for their success in instilling in students a remarkable interest in and enthusiasm for the sciences.

 

In all lessons visited, the atmosphere was positive and most conducive to learning. Students were content, affirmed regularly and, where tasks were given, these were achievable and had clear outcomes. All students were working and were responsive to encouragement. A very good teacher-student rapport existed and classroom management was relaxed and effective. Humour was evident in one or two instances.

 

Overall, a high level of learning and teaching was observed in the science and chemistry lessons visited.

 

 

Assessment

 

Ranges of assessment modes are implemented regularly to assess student performance and progress. These include end-of-topic class tests, formal examinations, a variety of in-class questioning strategies, the regular allocation, correction and monitoring of homework, and the monitoring of practical notebooks.

 

It is understood that teachers have decided to assess students’ practical work in Science as a component of the end-of-term examinations. Such practice is encouraged as it reflects the assessment objectives of the syllabus, and an aggregate mark that includes all components of the examination provides a more accurate indicator of the student’s ability in the subject. This approach also provides a stimulus for learning for the student and a means of reward for hard work and effort.

 

Appropriate homework was assigned and was seen to expand on and enhance the work carried out in class. It is generally corrected, with the corrections in some instances including encouraging comments. It is recommended when correcting a piece of work that the written feedback should outline suggestions, as observed in some copies and practical notebooks, where students could improve their work. This is in line with Assessment for Learning (AfL) techniques.

 

All students in non-examination classes sit formal Christmas and summer tests, while those in examination classes sit Christmas and mock examinations. This year a common examination was given in first-year Science. This is good practice as it ensures standardisation of the subject across the year group. It is understood that this will be the modus operandi in the future throughout junior cycle. School reports are used to communicate examination results and students’ progress to parents and or guardians. The school has opted to hold parent-tutor meetings once a year for the non-examination classes, and twice a year for the state examination classes. The students’ journals facilitate teachers in their ongoing liaison with parents.

 

The twin approach of formative and summative assessment is to be commended as it allows for consistency throughout the year, and helps track and monitor achievement. An analysis of the State examination results is presented to the Board of Management on an annual basis.

 

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Whole-school support for the sciences is good as illustrated by the provision of Science as a core subject in junior cycle and TY and the opportunity to study Biology, Chemistry and Physics for Leaving Certificate.

·         The science teachers are committed and adopt a professional approach to their work. Comprehensive folders of resources and the common programme of work for Science provide evidence of a good level of planning.

·         A high standard of teaching and learning in Science and Chemistry was observed during the evaluation process. In all instances, students were actively engaged in the learning process through a range of activities.

·         A sensitive and caring interaction exists between students and their teachers in the very positive learning environment of the science room.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 


 

 

 

Inspection Report School Response Form

 

Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

 

Fáiltíonn an Bord roimh an tuairisc chigireachta fíor-dhearfach ar mhúineadh agus ar fhoghlaim na hEolaíochta agus na Ceimice i gColáiste Daibhéid.  Is aitheantas é ar an gcaighdeán ard atá ann maidir le múineadh agus foghlaim sna hábhair seo agus ar dhíograis agus ar dhian-obair mhúinteoirí na Roinne Eolaíochta ann. Tá an Bord den tuairim gur tuairisc an-chothrom atá ann.  Tugann sé léargas cuimsitheach ar mhúineadh agus ar fhoghlaim na n-ábhar sa scoil agus dearbhaíonn sé agus tacaíonn sé leis na dea-chleachtais agus leis an gcaighdeán ard atá ann cheana féin.

 

 

Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.

 

 

Tugann an Bord dá aire an moladh a deineadh sa tuairisc maidir leis na háiseanna praicticiúla Eolaíochta  atá sa scoil, ceist a bhí faoi chaibidil ag an mBord cheana  agus ag éirí as seo déanfar iniúchadh ar an bhféidirtheacht  saotharlann eile a fhorbairt a bheadh ag teacht leis na treoirlínte do phleanáil saotharlainne mar atá leagtha  síos ag an Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta.  Bheadh an saotharlann seo mar áis bhreise i dteannta na háise eolaíochta atá ann cheana féin.  Déanfar é seo i gcóthéacs agus ag an am gcéanna le hiniúchadh ar fhorbairt iomlán an champais ar a bhfuil Teach Buckingham, Sráid an Mhuilinn Shábhadóireachta suite. 

Is mian leis an mBord an bealach cúirtéiseach, proifisiúnta inar cuireadh an chigireacht i gcrích a aithint.

Aithníonn an Bord  gur deineadh obair na cigireachta go hiomlán trí Ghaeilge.  Fáiltíonn an Bord roimhe seo mar ghné riachtanach den bpróiséas cigireachta maidir le Coláiste Daibhéid.  Is céim í seo i dtreo an chaidrimh chuí as Gaeilge atá riachtanach mar thacaíocht d’fheidhmiú na scoile lánGhaeilge.

Leanfaidh an Bord ag déanamh gach iarracht  na hachmhainní agus an tacaíocht atá ag teastáil a chur ar fáil don  bPríomhoide agus don bhFoireann  chun gur féidir leo na moltaí atá sa tuairisc  seo a chur i gcrích .